The entire congregation was standing and holding their breath.

Getta Neumann
Date of birth:

In the Fabric Synagogue in the 1960s and 1970s, everyone was seated on the place reserved and bought for this unique occasion, but throughout the rest of the year, the pews were mostly empty. My mother was on the balcony on the right side, so she could exchange glances with my father, who was sitting below, in his rabbinical armchair, in a white robe and and turban-like headdress with a bright white satin tassel, to the left of Aron HaKodesh, the cabinet with the Torah scrolls. People laughed, hugged, and kissed until Kol Nidre began, one of the few prayers when the entire congregation was standing and holding their breath. [...] No one could escape this passionate prayer that begins pianissimo, softly, gradually amplifies, widens, rises, encompasses the whole being. Not the meaning of the words, but the dramatic melody, carried by the voice and the organ, engages the individual and the community in a collective emotion. […]

Fasting was not a topic of discussion, we were fasting, suffering from hunger and thirst, without comment. […] I can only remember golden autumn sunny days. I was sitting next to my mother who was leafing through her prayer book, a wedding present from Eszti néni, the wife of Matyi bácsi, the old Rabbi Drechsler. Every year, on Yom Kippur, I hug it. […] Towards the end is the Yizkor prayer, in memory of those who died. When the time came, I had to leave the synagogue, as did all those who had not yet lost first-degree relatives. I was tiptoeing out, my soul shivering, listening to the cantor who read the names of those who had died in the past year, looking furtively back at the rows of people with bowed heads. I knew the grief that gripped my mother - her parents, brother and other relatives had perished in Auschwitz. My father was later also in mourning; my grandparents, who left when I was two years old, are buried in Israel. I grew up without grandparents.

Unlike on other holidays, my father's sermon was a kind of meditation, a reflection, a prayer, without biblical anecdotes, without moral stories; a fervent prayer that encompassed everything and that allowed everyone to complete it according to their personal aspirations. In the afternoon, Avinu Malkeinu was sung-recited, a moving poem, which culminates in the eternal human desire, expressed in the verse Our Father, our King, / Inscribe us in the book of life. I have never and nowhere heard an Avinu Malkeinu recited with more ardour than by my father. His whole being turned into a plea, an imploring, a prayer. Listening to him, you couldn't help but believe in the power of the will to make things come true.

The sound of the shofar, the twisted ram horn, was eagerly awaited and greeted with a shkoyach („bravo”), sighs of relief, and a piece of chocolate or an apple with cloves, so that we would gain strength for the journey home. The three of us walked slowly, a little tired, a little hungry, deeply content, thinking at the table set, the kuglof and the hot cocoa with cream.

Neumann, G. (2014) Destine evreiești la Timișoara. Portretul comunității din perioada interbelică până azi, Bucharest: Hasefer Publishing House

The stories of the Jewish community

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